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Dance Theatre of Harlem - The Four Temperaments, St. Louis Woman (World Premiere)

by Robert Abrams
July 12, 2003
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Dance Theatre of Harlem - The Four Temperaments, St. Louis Woman (World Premiere)


Review by Robert Abrams
July 12, 2003

The Four Temperaments is a leotard ballet with sharply defined movements. It made much use of off center shapes in forceful and deliberate choreography. Several solos and pas de duex were framed by a chorus of four dancers.

Several moments in the ballet were particularly noteworthy. During a solo, the way the dancer fell to the floor was well done. There was a teeter moment where the dancers balanced off of each other very impressively. The Sanguinic passage was very energetic and showed nice attack.

During the finale of the ballet, the ensemble filled the stage with emergent patterns.

Music by Paul Hindemith, "Themes and Variations"
Choreography by George Balanchine
Staged by Victoria Simon
Costume Designer - Zelda Wynn
Lighting Designer - Edward Effron
Conductor - Joseph E. Fields
Pianist - Michael Cherry
Dancers: Raintree Halpern, Fidel Garcia, Leslie Anne Cardona, Mark Burns, Jarina Carvalho, James Washington, Kevin Thomas, Paunika Jones, Melissa Morrissey, Leanne Codrington, Ebony Haswell, Christiane Cristo-Ezewoko, Dionne Figgins, Akua Parker, Kip Sturm, Stacie Williams, Adriane Richburg, Danielle Thomas, Ashley Murphy, Antonio Douhit, Lenore Pavlakos, Rejane Duarte, Naimah Willoughby, and Andrea Long.

St. Louis Woman: A Blues Ballet comes at you with a colorful set and color and artistic costumes based on racing silks. It is a story of love in the world of horse racing set in 1946. The choreography combines demanding, classically rooted performance with a social dance sensibility. The music was compelling and varied but still consistent. The Dance Theatre of Harlem carried the work to the finish line with great success.

There was great dynamic interplay between the dancers. Ikolo Griffin, dancing Little Augie the star jockey, had a Gene Kelly-esque ease about him. There were several very impressive flying lifts. There were tap numbers, Charleston numbers, and even an Argentine Tango with an American Tango flavor given the tone of the music and the open work. The social dance often had a competitive feel to it, where one couple would take the floor in an attempt to out do the previous couple. This choice was both consistent with the competitive horse racing narrative as well as consistent with the kinds of competitive social dance one often found in clubs in the late 40s.

I thought the choreography struck a good balance between narrative and pure dance. The dramatization of attraction and rejection was very clear. The characters were expressive. A few times the show pulled a trick from the silent movies and put written dialogue or other text that explained what was happening on a screen while the characters danced. Yet on the other hand, if you missed the fine points of the narrative, you could watch the ballet as well performed and effective pure dance.

The show was not always happy. Some passages presented a very dark mood. The show ends on a bright orange up note with love winning the day. The very tail end of the show is a pure dance coda.

Overall, St. Louis Woman: A Blues Ballet is a phenomenal work. All of the dancers were wonderful. Hopefully there are better than even odds that the Dance Theatre of Harlem will present this work again. When they do, if the box office is taking bets, my recommendation is to let it ride.

Based on the musical St. Louis Woman by Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Arna Bontemps and Countee Cullen
Executive producer - Arthur Mitchell
Choreography and new concept - Michael Smuin
Additional orchestrations, arrangements, music - Joseph E. Fields
Set designer - Tony Walton
Costume designer - Willa Kim
Lighting designers - Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer
Original concept and libretto - Jack Wrangler
Poster design - Hilary Knight
Assistant to the choreographer - Celia Fushille-Burke
Associate set designer - Daniela Galli
Conductor - Joseph E. Fields
Dancers: Caroline Rocher as Della Green, Donald Williams as Biglow Brown, Ikolo Griffin as Little Augie, Tai Jimenez as Lila, Melissa Morrissey as Butterfly, Preston Dugger as Barney, Floyd Williams and Faruma Williams as Bartenders and Reporters, Antonio Douthit as Death, Jaime Kotrba, Briana Lopez, Tynisa Williams, Adriane Richburg, Nikki Wilson and Ashley Murphy as Death's Acolytes, Iyun Harrison, Ebony Haswell, William Smith, Danielle Thomas, Mark Burns, Claudio Sandoval, Leanne Codrington, Charles Robinson, Amy Johnson, Taurean Green, Naimah Willoughby, Fidel Garcia, Jarina Carvalho, Orlando Pagan, Christiane Cristo-Ezewoko, and Raintree Halpern as Patrons of the Rocking Horse Club.
Singers: Sabrina Elasyne Carten, Marlon Saunders, Talise Trevigne

Dance Theatre of Harlem - St. Louis Woman - Lincoln Center Festival 2003 - Caroline Rocher as Della and Donald Williams as Biglow Brown in "St. Louis Woman," July 8.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Berger

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